Presentation Skills – Keeping It Simple

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Organizing genius Kelly Johnson who took a leading role in the design of 40 aircraft, first coined the acronym KISS – “Keep it simple stupid.”

On one occasion, Johnson set a team of jet aircraft design engineers a challenge. Handing them a set of tools, he asked them to design the aircraft so that an average mechanic in the field, equipped solely with this set of tools, could carry out the necessary repairs. Oh, and it also had to be possible under combat conditions!

The KISS acronym has been used widely since, with various interpretations.

In the context of this discussion on communication skills, it also has a very practical application. For your presentation or speech to have the desired effect, it must be simple.

Here are 2 guidelines for keeping it simple:

1. Avoid Jargon And Unfamiliar Terms

Unless your audience is made up of specialists in the field you are talking about, avoid technical terms and acronyms the average person has no idea about.

Some make the mistake of thinking it makes them appear sophisticated, knowledgeable, and educated. Actually, it can have a far different effect on an audience.

Some may perceive the speaker to be pompous or just a plain ‘show-off’. Others may get irritated, wanting to understand the speaker’s dialogue but getting frustrated with the road blocks the speaker keeps putting in the way.

Many will just ‘switch off’ and not even attempt to concentrate from there on, believing this is all ‘over their head’.

2. Use Simple Sentences

Using simple sentences does not mean speaking continuously in short bursts. A simple sentence can be short. It can also be longer, perhaps between 15 to 25 words. As long as complicated sentence structure is avoided a sentence will be simple and easy to understand.

So when delivering your presentation remember to split up longer thoughts into separate sentences, rather than linking them all together in a continuous style.

For example, suppose you were giving a presentation to college students on the importance of goal setting.

You could say: “One thing we have to realize is that if we don’t set goals it is unlikely we will get anywhere because if we don’t know where we are going we will be a little bit like a boat on a river just drifting away from the bank being carried along by the current that happens to catch it at the time.”


Notice how much more effective this thought is when it is expressed in simple sentences:
“Goals get you to your destination. Without goals you could end up anywhere. Who wants to be like a boat drifting on a river just carried along by the current.”

Notice with the trimmed version above, unnecessary wordage such as “One thing we have to realize is that” is left out. It adds nothing to the clarity of the message and amounts to useless ‘filler’. Just get straight to the point and say what you mean.


Avoid the tendency to drown excellent information in a sea of words. Use a variety of sentences, long and short, but make sure they are uncomplicated. Be sure to explain unfamiliar terms or avoid jargon altogether.

Keeping the KISS principle in mind in the preparation stage of your presentation will make sure your own mind is sharp and focused. Then you can be sure your presentation will come over that way to your listeners also.

Remember to add the “Keep It Simple” principle to your list of communication skills. As Leonardo Da Vinci is quoted as saying: “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.”

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